The Stormers will be looking for their second win in a row when they visit the Waratahs at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on Saturday.
Robbie Fleck’s side kicked off their campaign with an unconvincing 28-20 win over the Jaguares at Newlands, but the real test begins now. The Tahs are their first opponent on a three-match tour of Australasia which will also see them visit the Crusaders and the Highlanders.
Although he praised the character of his team following their win last weekend, Fleck encouraged the Stormers to be more clinical.
“There were so many chances in that first half but our finishing let us down. I guess there is a bit of rustiness in the group, which is to be expected with the amount of injuries and changes we have had to make over the last couple of weeks,” he said.
“Our decision-making let us down at times and we left a lot out there, to be honest.”
The Waratahs are coming off the back of a dismal 2017, having lost 11 out of 15 games and shipping 68 tries. Nevertheless, coach Daryl Gibson has kept his job and will be looking to hit the ground running in order to silence his critics.
His side gave a good account of themselves in a 47-5 win over the Melbourne Rebels in their final pre-season match. However, Gibson insisted that even more will be required of them on Saturday.
“The game against the Stormers will be a physical contest and it’s a chance for our guys to show what they have, and what we have been focusing on delivering,” he said.
“The kind of start we had against the Rebels last week was too slow for my liking, and we cannot afford to do that against the Stormers. We will need to up the tempo.”
Saturday’s hosts have had the better of this fixture in recent times, winning three of the previous four encounters between the teams.
Daryl Gibson has handed Super Rugby debuts for the Waratahs to lock pairing Rob Simmons and Tom Staniforth, along with outside centre Lalakai Foketi and left wing Curtis Rona.
However, he has ensured that there is a wealth of experience to guide the new faces. Flanker and captain Michael Hooper, prop Paddy Ryan, fly-half Bernard Foley, centre Kurtley Beale and full-back Israel Folau — who already bost 443 Waratahs caps between them — all start.
The Stormers have been boosted by the return of lock Pieter-Steph du Toit and full-back SP Marais, who have both recovered from injury.
Chris van Zyl drops to the bench to accommodate du Toit, while Kobus van Dyk starts on the flank alongside captain Siya Kolisi and industrious eighthman Nizaam Carr.
Leyds moves to the wing to make way for the returning Marais, while EW Viljoen is replaced by JJ Engelbrecht at outside centre. Iconic Blitzbok speedster Seabelo Senatla is rested following a busy spell for the winger.
Form: The Waratahs endured a dismal run of form towards the end of last season, losing to the Highlanders (44-28), the Chiefs (46-31), the Jaguares (40-27) and the Western Force (40-11) in consecutive matches.
The Stormers may have started 2018 on a winning note against the Jaguares, but they will still be haunted by their quarter-final elimination at the hands of the Chiefs last season in a narrow 17-11 defeat.
2016: Waratahs won 32-30 in Cape Town
2015: Stormers won 32-18 in Sydney
2014: Waratahs won 22-11 in Cape Town
2013: Waratahs won 21-15 in Sydney
2012: Stormers won 19-13 in Cape Town
2010: Stormers won 25-6 in Cape Town
2010: Stormers won 27-6 in Cape Town
2009: Waratahs won 12-6 in Sydney
2008: 13-13 draw in Cape Town
2007: Stormers won 16-10 in Sydney
Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Dean Muir, 17 JC Janse ven Rensburg, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 George Whitehead, 23 EW Viljoen.
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Lalakai Foketi, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Tom Staniforth, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Shambeckler Vui, 19 Nick Palmer, 20 Jed Holloway, 21 Mitch Short, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Alex Newsome.
Date: Saturday, February 24
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19h45 local time (8:45 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), William Houston (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)